Rally America drops Steamboat | CraigDailyPress.com

Rally America drops Steamboat

National series eliminates nine-year-old Rally Colorado

Joel Reichenberger

— Rally Colorado could be in trouble.

The annual rally car race that has played out on the dirt roads between Steamboat Springs and Hayden for the past nine years – attracting some of the world’s most talented rally drivers for some of that period – will no longer be a stop on Rally America’s national circuit.

That means the race could become a national stop for a different circuit, revert to a regional stop in the Rally America brand or cease to exist altogether.

“We would hate to see this go away, so we are working hard to see if we can figure out a way to logically proceed forward in a way that makes sense for the community and our sponsors,” said Jim Gill, the event’s organizer, who was also key in bringing it to the Yampa Valley nearly a decade ago.

The Steamboat-based race was one of three cut from Rally America’s top tier.

The Ojibwe Forests Rally in Minnesota and the Lake Superior Rally, which wrapped up Sunday in Houghton, Mich., also were cut.

In a statement, Rally America said it bumped the three races to make room for a trio of European rally-cross-style events to be contested in Millville, N.J.

“We’re confident American rally spectators would like to add this wheel-to-wheel competition to their plate of national championship rallying,” Rally America Managing Director J.B. Niday said in that news release. “Our championship is among the most respected in the world. This will make it more so. It’s a logical move for the growth of rally here in the United States.”

Gill said he could take some solace in the fact that Steamboat’s expulsion had everything to do with its traditional date, mid-September, and little to do with its success.

In fact, he said Rally America offered Steamboat a chance to host a national-level event again starting in 2011. The only problem: the available dates are in March and April, when the backcountry roads used for the race will likely either be buried under feet of snow or sunk in mud.

For now, he said, the Rally Colorado committee will spend the next several weeks trying to iron out what of the available options is best.

Those include sticking with Rally America, only as a regional event. That means big names such as Travis Pastrana and Ken Block would likely be a thing of the past.

Another option is turning Rally Colorado into a stop for the United States Rally Championship’s national tour.

“We are in the process of evaluating all of the details about something like that,” Gill said. “This is all a little sad, a little disappointing because the event was to the point of critical mass. The community embraced it, we got a lot of spectators, it was growing every year and the sponsors saw all that.

“What we do next has to be a good investment for the community and the sponsors. If it is, then the race will go on. If we determine there’s not enough value for the community, we will have to make a different decision.”

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